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The Fix: Lectiones Cutlerianae

An interesting book with an intriguing provenance arrived in the conservation lab this month from The Dibner Libray of the History of Science and Technology.  “Lectiones Cutlerianae”, a book created from the collection of six lectures given by the English philosopher and polymath, Robert Hooke, from 1674-1678, was published in 1679. The book is part of the Heralds of Science collection. The lectures touch on various topics including the annual motion of the earth, a description of helioscopes and microscopical discoveries. Hooke was a contemporary and bitter rival of Isaac Newton.  He was also a close friend of the architect Christopher Wren.  Hooke conducted over half of the surveys in London after the great fire of 1666 that Wren utilized in his plan to re-build the city after the disaster.



Lectiones Cutlerianae, before treatment, cover.


Our particular copy of “Lectiones Cutlerianae” belonged to Baron Grenville former Prime Minister of England (1806-1807) and Chancellor of Oxford University.  The binding bears Grenville’s armorial seal on the front and back covers.  The book has been previously re-backed, with a new piece of leather on the spine, as well as re-sewn.  The re-sewing led to pressure being placed on the title page, causing a tear. There was also an unsightly previous attempt at paper repair to one of the 17 plates in the book.



Lectiones Cutlerianae, before treatment, previous repair


The title page was humidified using Gore-Tex sprayed with de-ionized water.  The page was then re-attached, this time to the page below it using wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue. 



Lectiones Cutlerianae, after treatment, title page.


As the book was re-sewn, the plates were attached with tabs.  It was a simple procedure to humidify the tab portion of the plate enough to entirely remove it from the textblock.  With the plate removed, the plate could be immersed in de-ionized water to remove the previous paper repair.  The washing also lessened the appearance of tide lines on the plate (from previous water damage.)  Once the plate was dried and flattened the repairs were re-done and the plate re-attached to the tab. 



Lectiones Cutlerianae, after treatment, newly repaired plate.


— Katie Wagner


  1. Lucy Brown

    Yet another great contribution of the Heralds of Science collection.

  2. House Cleaners

    It is nice to see the past restored, we must take care of all the treasures hidden in a library such as Smithsonian, I am happy to see the past living its new life!

  3. Kent

    I would like to see a video produced that shows how to make simple paper repairs to old maps or papers the average person has in their bible or ancestor collection. I got a book that was rated well and it was very poor and no more than a pamphlet. I asked our local librarian and she didn’t know about repairs. This must be common in our small town libraries.

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